Your opinion of this excerpt from "Atlas Shrugged"

I have never read the full novel and have only a general idea of the plot. But I did find this excerpt online The Story of the Twentieth Century Motor Company What I’d like to hear from the Dopers is whether you think this particular passage is ok, meh, or drek; and if you’re familiar with the whole novel whether it is representative of the the whole novel or not. Given the poor opinion of Rand’s literary talent expressed by many, I’m a bit surprised because this chapter at least doesn’t seem so bad; at worst, a little polemical.

I like it, but then again, I like Atlas Shrugged. It’s fairly representative of the rest of the novel–in fact, that passage is one of the most important in the story, because it explains the events that set John Galt’s entire plan into motion.

If you liked that passage, there’s a good chance you’ll like the novel. It is polemical, though, so if that’s not your cup of tea, you might not enjoy it.

I’ve read the book so many times (though not recently) that it’s difficult to take this passage out of context. It was written with the assumption that you had read the book up to that point, which you had not. There are many parts of it that are somewhat incomprehensible without that context . . . like the “young boy” mentioned in the last paragraph. Bear in mind that the book is somewhat of a deliberate “mystery,” so you’re reading clues that don’t make sense yet.

And no, this passage is not representative of the entire novel. It is a lengthy narrative spoken by a minor character, and its purpose is to concretize some of the ethical abstractions put forward in the rest of the book. It’s only a small slice of the book’s story and meaning, and I can’t imagine reading it out of context.

Maybe we have different definitions of “representative,” then. Any passage of that size, when taken from a book with over 1100 pages, is going to be but a small slice. I challenge you to find any other bit of AS that size that is more representative than that passage. The only others I can think of would be some of the other speeches (Francisco’s on love or on money, Rearden’s defense in court, Francisco’s speech to Rearden (the “Atlas should shrug” speech, etc.). I don’t have the book with me right now so I’m not sure you could grab a bit of Galt’s speech that size and have it be more representative, but maybe.

The OP’s passage definitely, IMO, does a good job of painting one of the central issues in the book–why collectivism/communism is a bad thing.

Somewhat representative. There are a lot of different kinds of passages in the book. This is a monologue. There is also plenty of narration, and plenty of dialogue. Someone reading only this part might think that the whole book is told in monologues, and that isn’t so.

It is a very preachy segment, and a reader might get the impression that the whole book is similarly preachy. It isn’t. There are even a few places where people get to make speeches in opposition to Rand’s actual beliefs. And there are lots of places where the action and dialogue aren’t really preachy at all.

It encapsulates much of what is wrong with the book, but it doesn’t show us any of the parts of the book that are actually pretty good.

Whatever you think of Ayn Rand, you have to acknowledge she lived through the Russian Revolution and saw a lot of the effects firsthand.

Granted she experienced something back in Russia hat made her write that piece, I still find it hard believing it can happen in a free economy. The moment they announce something like that, no buyer will call on them.

Well, of course, it’s a bit of fantasy. She was trying to convey something of the unimaginable to an American audience who had never seen the pernicious effect of communism firsthand. Likewise, Jonathan Swift actually ate very few Irish babies in his lifetime and found their taste disagreeable at any rate, so his modest proposal should also be understood as an exaggeration.

My opinion is the same one I have of Rand in general.

I interpreted the OP’s use of “representative” literally, i.e. a long speech by a character. I was concerned that he’d think the book was a collection of long speeches, one after the other. That’s why I said it was difficult, taken out of context.

See Trinopus’s post.

That’s exactly her point; it’s not a free economy.

Is there any humor in Atlas Shrugged?

I guess if you interpret this monologue as a metaphor for the history of communism as it was botched by the USSR, it makes sense. But as a stand-alone tale, it makes little sense. When production falls, why would you order the most able to work extra shifts instead of kicking the slackers into second gear? And really, who would vote a system like that into being in the first place? And the numbers don’t really add up, because the “most able” left in the first few weeks of the experiment, but they were still assigned the extra shifts as well. Huh?

So the metaphor doesn’t really work unless you somehow assume a closed system where no one can leave.

I’ve read the entire book, and I think that passage is a good summary of the entire thesis. And quite representative. Certainly the book varies in style, pacing, and tone from place to place, but that snippet is about as representative as any other one you could choose.

And yes, she has a reputation on this board of being a hack writer. But I think that is because most of her detractors around here are biased by their political disagreements with her.

Well in the story it didn’t work; or rather it took four years to completely squander the assets the company had built up over decades. In real life the USSR indeed was a closed system, and where the workers didn’t dare slack on their quotas they learned to do the most pisspoor work they could get away with.

A bit strident perhaps, but there’s a lot of truth in that passage. I remember it well from reading it many years ago, including some of the details – the guy with the record collection punching the girl with the braces.

It’s an anti-monument to altruism, which is what Rand wanted to convey.

Depends; does it have to be intentional?

I think Atlas Shrugged is definitely worth reading. I think it fails as a novel per se: the characters are all stretched out on a one-dimensional scale, giving the whole book a bit of a monochromatic tone and lacking the complexity of character that a great novel should have.

That said, it raises a lot of issues and ideas, and regardless of whether you love it or hate it, it’s excellent food for thought. Rand makes a lot of very good cases for her ideas in the novel.

I’m not a Rand fan, but I have to give her credit for making a lot of excellent points and making them well. Her essays are also worth careful study.

I’d settle for wit. Is there any of that?

A little. Francisco d’Anconia can be witty at times. But even as someone who likes the book, I have to say that the humor is thin on the ground for the most part.